Creative Destruction

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It's full of tricks.

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It’s full of tricks.

I have a great many marketable skills at my disposal. I’m a good electrician, I can cook pretty well, I can sing on key, and I go big. Alright, so maybe that last isn’t really marketable, but my point is that I have developed a bag of tricks, so to speak. I keep adding to the bag as I get older, and now is no exception.

I have become quite gifted at the art of burning things down when I have decided it’s time to build something new. Well, folks, the time is nigh.

I’m coming home.

I’ve known for a while that this was an eventuality I was wrestling towards. It has honestly been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I’ve come at it from places of guilt, of anger, of determination, and now of pride. It has slowly come to my attention over the last few months that I have not been happy here. Not just an inkling of displeasure but a genuine discomfort. Rule one is that if you are not happy you are the only person who can act to rectify that situation. So, I did. I acted. I changed the way I went to class, I added activities with local youth outside of school, I altered my workout regimen, I went through and systematically sorted through to try and squash this bug. But it didn’t die. I would leave my house in the morning and dread the ride to school. I would try and let off steam but the catcalls and comments would make me boil over. I was having arguments in my head before they could even became a reality. And finally the only thing I could see left to change was my environs.

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

I must take this moment to make it perfectly clear that I do, despite its quarks and irksome details, love Indonesia. I love it like the super annoying kid sibling that kicks you and laughs at your pain. Sometimes I want to strangle it, but even in those moments I have this deep and pure love for this country and its peoples. I have, generally, never been so completely welcomed by a group of complete strangers. My host mother took me into her home and treated me like her own child. My two best friends at school led me by the arm and made me feel included and welcome. My students grew to respect and love me as a mentor and teacher.

Despite all these wonderful and inspiring parts of my service, there is a darker side. I’m a big fan of lists and order. In any decision process you can generally pin me down and have me admit I made a pro/con list. I even broke up with a boy that way. And now, it seems, this list has come back to solve another relationship riddled with irreconcilable differences. There are a myriad things on the pros side of my list. As I mentioned, my students, my host family, my sheer will and pride, etc. However, on the cons side there were a few things and then this glaring singularity. It was this seemingly infinitely small thing but it was infinitely dense and could not be overcome. I no longer felt that the benefits outweighed the unwanted attention and outright sexual harassment to which I was being exposed.

Many of you may not know about this part. I’ve hinted at certain instances here and there but I try to keep it light in the blogosphere. This is not light. This is the heaviest of singularities. New universe, status. Peace Corps Indonesia is still considered an ‘adolescent’ program. We are no longer shiny and new with extra money at our disposal, but we’re still not a mature program with clean procedures and lines in place. To their credit, the staff have been working tirelessly to put these procedures in motion, however, one must consider the constant turnover in American staff (there are only ever three in country and they are required to change every 5 years or so) and the green nature of the program and, consequently, its local staff. We are only 5 years old. You can’t grow a program specific to a country in 5 years. You can have a damn good start, but it’s not a lego set with pre-printed instructions. It’s an ikea bookshelf with extra dowels leftover and directions in Swedish. So, with each group they listen to our feedback. They ask us questions and try to mold the program accordingly. Each individual’s needs will, of course, be different, and so unfortunately there is a requirement that they cater to the masses. In short: they’re trying to figure it out. Everything they learned from my experience will be applied to future groups and, indeed, already has been in some cases. I was able to help facilitate an open forum for communication about unwanted attention and sexual harassment in further trainings. They reached out to me and other volunteers to assist them in creating new sessions to ensure the continuation of important information to the volunteers to keep them safer and healthier. We are taking steps to arm every volunteer with the tools they will need to deal with the inevitabilities of these wretched events.

But that wasn’t enough to keep me here. Someone put it to my nerdy self in terms of physics. An object in motion requires very little energy to keep it in motion. It requires a great expenditure of energy, however, to stop an object already in motion. The easiest course might have been to continue my service and see it through to its terminus. The cons of such an action, however, were heavier than the pros, though the latter list was bursting. It was no longer a question of could I complete my service, but should I. And maybe that voice screaming at me to suck it up and carry on was coming from a place of hubris and folly.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn't have done it without her.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn’t have done it without her.

So. I made a tough call. I spent the last week in a living hell. I said goodbye to sobbing students and cried along with them as they told me how much I had changed their lives. I hugged my Ibu for the last time (for the foreseeable future) today. That woman who stood with me through everything and yelled at people on my behalf. I am leaving friends that I will keep for my lifetime to fend for themselves. I’m leaving my new home behind. This is not easy. But I’ve never been afraid of the tough choices before, and I certainly will not stand down now.

No Place Like Home

These are just the book boxes. Don't carry more than one at once...

These are just the book boxes. Don’t carry more than one at once…

I’ve moved around a lot in my life. After I moved out of my parents’ house I went full nomad and by the time I headed out here I had moving down to a science. All of my belongings could fit into 6 banker’s boxes, 4 of which were full of books. My parents moved after I was already in college, so I have technically never even lived in their house. What I mean to say is, there’s no one building that I would point at and say “I grew up there.” I have memories strewn across the country like a very comforting trail of breadcrumbs. I have had my little hiding places in various houses, apartments, trailers, theatres, and rose gardens. I call Santa Cruz my home town because it feels small and comfortable and safe, but after I moved out I made San Francisco my home. I chose it. I built my life there. I made the decisions and picked out the apartments and made things happen for me. I explored the new nooks and crannies and I made it mine. That place became a part of me.

But I don’t miss it that much anymore.

When I first moved to Indonesia, I would open google maps on my computer and it would pop up immediately to San Francisco, centered on my old house. I would navigate away from that image as quickly as possible because it hurt. I would look at my little peninsula on that screen and feel a visceral pain that would grab my gut and not let go. I couldn’t tell you if it was the people or the streets or the food or what I missed most about it. Maybe it was the combination of all the those pieces which made a whole. The City has a pulse, a life, a soul. I missed everything about it and I thought to myself, “Is this what home is?”

Art!

Art!

I know everyone says that home is where the heart is, and hell, there’s a song about leaving your heart in San Francisco. There’s even a giant piece of art to commemorate said hit. But then I was sitting in bed earlier today and I realized; I can look at a map of San Francisco now. That sharp edge is gone.

With all my moving, I made a personal philosophy some time back: It takes two years to really get settled in a new place. After about six months you’ve stopped focusing on what your new location is not and have turned your attention instead onto what it is. At the end of year one you’ve stopped missing it with the all-consuming sense you once had, you’ve made some friends, and you’re really getting your feet wet. Some time in the middle of year two you make real routines and lasting connections, and understand the flow of your new surroundings. By the end of year two you’re all settled into your new place and it’s as if you were never anywhere else. For this reason I usually moved into a new apartment and neighborhood after one year. I liked to keep things fresh.

Here I am, one year five and a half months into service and, for some reason, I’m surprised that I still manage to fit into my original hypothesis. I’m not comfortable here, per se, but the part where that burning longing ebbs holds true.

The closest thing to home I'll get for now.

The closest thing to home I’ll get for now.

So, to answer my own question, I’m going to have to say: Yes. That is what home is. But a part of me used to think you could only have one home at a time. That because San Francisco was my home, Santa Cruz or my grandmother’s house could no longer be my home, but I was sorely mistaken. The rose garden in Raleigh, my parents’ house in Santa Cruz, my grandmother’s house, and the entirety of San Francisco are still my home. And when I get back I have the opportunity to make a whole new home. Life is moving forward at a million miles an hour, even in this place where time stands still, and to focus so much on what I had seems frivolous and a little foolish. I loved my life there. I learned so much. And now I am here, in Indonesia, learning more. Later I will be in LA, learning yet more. After that… who knows?

Dissenting Compromise

Things are different here. That isn’t particularly surprising, it’s just a simple statement of fact. They are different here than they were in Malang. They were different in Bandung than they are here. Each place has been different. Each city a change.

I suppose before I continue rambling on about cities you’ve seldom heard of and places you’ve never seen I should provide you all with a brief lesson in Java’s geography and a little history of Indonesia (just the pertinent bits, I promise). I live on the island of Java in Indonesia. In Java there are a series of, let’s call them provinces: West Java, East Java, Central Java, and a few more I am unlikely to ever mention. Now, Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch for about 350 years. This has affected their languages, their culture, and their lives to this day. Indonesia finally gained its independence in 1945. While Indonesia was now one free country, it was still comprised of over 1700 islands with wildly different cultures and languages. For this reason, the representatives of the islands came together and decided to instate a national language and dubbed it, you guessed it, Indonesian.

Geo Lesson

Here we go, folks. There will be a quiz.

Alright, you say. Enough with the informational bit, you say. Ya, ya, ok, fine. You needed the back story to understand where I’m going with this so just calm yourself. In East Java there are primarily Javanese people. They have a very specific culture and their own language (Javanese) which is spoken at home. Children here grow up learning first their local language (generally), then Indonesian, and maybe English later (Makes you feel a little badly about your single language skills, doesn’t it, America?). I learned Indonesian in East Java, I lived with a Javanese family, I learned about their culture and values. Then I moved to West Java. West Java is composed of mostly Sundanese people. They speak, yes, Sundanese. This is not just a little switch from the South East Coast of America to the North East Coast of America, this is vaguely akin to moving from America to Canada. Probably Quebec. The people mostly look kind of the same, they can speak the language you know (if they’re young), but everything else is a whole new world. (Sing it. SING IT. You know you want to.)

Not only have I moved to a new culture, I’ve moved from a community outside of a large city to the middle of nowhere Desa-Desa land (Vocab: Desa – A small village or town). Things are different here. My community in Malang was open and somewhat modern and very liberal (comparatively speaking). Tattoos and piercings were not normal, but not bad. It was slowly understood that I am a strong and opinionated adult. It is different here. People are slow to understand and even more slow to accept certain things. I am a single woman who cannot cook. That is not ok. I’ve been told I must learn. I’ve been told I may not spend so much time in the company of men. That it’s unseemly for a woman to be so familiar with men and not women. They spend ten weeks trying to prepare me for this and I don’t know that it is possible. I don’t know that I can look Peace Corps in the face and tell them they did it wrong or poorly but I don’t think I was ready for what I found here. I come from a different culture and no matter how many cultures we are exposed to by living in a proverbial melting pot, it’s not like this. Well, it wasn’t for me.

This would be my normal state of being. Some people are not used to such things.

This would be my normal state of being. Some people are not used to such things.

What’s the moral here? Where’s the sunny side? What’s the solution? Well, we wait. School hasn’t even started yet, we’re still on their version of Summer Vacation. I’m still new in town. I’m still a crazy, eccentric, white girl from America (some Americans have trouble swallowing my eccentricities, the poor Indonesians didn’t know what they were signing up for!). I’m never going to be able to change the way they see women here but that’s not the goal. The goal is to assimilate enough that I become a member of the community, no longer a guest among strangers. The ultimate success is to assimilate without changing how I do things. Meeting in the middle and sharing ideas instead of one side triumphing over the other. This isn’t tug of war, this is a cultural exchange. For anyone who wants to join the Peace Corps, any strangers who may be reading this entry, if you take nothing else away, take that. This is a two way street. The people in my community may not always remember that but that’s when I offer a gentle reminder. It’s not just me to has to assimilate and compromise. And, while I may not be able to change everyone’s view on women or Americans, I can change a few. I can plant an idea. An idea is the most dangerous weapon in the world, yes? It starts as a small seed deep in the minds of a few and grows into something bigger than me. It will take years and it may only affect a few people but that would be the greatest success in the world. To see one of these girls grow up to become anything she wants to be.

So. Things are different. Different so often has the connotation of polite discontent or dislike. Like interesting. I don’t mean that here. I mean, denotatively, not the same as another or each other; unlike in nature, form, or quality. Things are here, as always, exactly what I make them. I will get out of this exactly what I put in. If I don’t like something, I need to change it on my own. Not enough space in my room? Build a shelf. Not a shelf in the mandi? Use smaller bottles. Don’t like what’s being asked of me? Explain why I’m not going to do it. When I was younger I took Hapkido, a Korean martial art. My particular brand was called Yu-Shim Hapkido, or, Bending Willow Hapkido. The willow flows and moves in the winds but its branches are strong and hard to break. You have to be flexible and move with circumstances but strong enough to stand your ground and preserve what makes you who you are. I’m not going to be the same person when I leave this place but I’m not going to change what I believe or how I act to suit anyone, save myself. It’s a tenuous line but I’ve spent my entire life being told I’m too stubborn to be afraid of anything.

Indo the wild, wild west

It happened. I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer. I took an oath in front of the US Ambassador and shook his hand as he gave me a pin to prove I said the words of all federal employees.

Check out our KILLER PC Pins. And those faces.

Check out our KILLER PC Pins. And those faces.

We met, we smiled, we sang the Indonesian national anthem, we shook hands and took pictures, some of us are in the papers, we hugged and said goodbye, and that was that. Like most ceremonies. Some of us went out afterward for an adult beverage which was nice but I had to get home to pack and spend my last night with host family numero uno. Now, they are something I did not account for. They are overwhelming with affection and kindness and caring. I couldn’t cough without someone asking how I was and I couldn’t be on the phone without someone wanting to say hi. It was suffocating. And I miss them. I did not expect to nearly cry as I left their house for the last time. As I high fived Miss Noreen for the last time. I know these are things that should have occurred to me, but they didn’t. So, I miss them. They were good and patient and kind. I do hope to visit them if given the opportunity to help with training next year. Even if the mandi water is freezing.

A last photo with Ibu, Nenek, Sam (the PCV who lived with this family last year), and some of us ID-7s.

A last photo with Ibu, Nenek, Sam (the PCV who lived with this family last year), and some of us ID-7s.

After a prolonged goodbye, we got on a train Tuesday at around Noon. 16 hours later we arrived in Bandung. Lemme say that again. SIXTEEN hours. On a train. I would really love never to do that again. Somehow I think that’s not a very likely hope, but a girl can dream. It was fun, though. All 20 of us were seated together so we, of course, played train mafia and other fun and ridiculous games. We got to Bandung at around 4a and everyone shuffled out in a dazed and exhausted stupor akin to a bad zombie movie whilst carrying all of our wordly possessions. We crossed the street and promptly passed out in our hotel. We were lovingly awoken at 11a to come down and meet our principals/vice principals/counter parts/whoever decided to show up from our school. You heard me right, folks. We traveled 16 hours, didn’t really sleep, and then got dressed up to meet our future employers. Woot. We were thrilled.

Luckily for me, my counterpart (Pak Dayat) is one of the nicest people on the planet. He is so excited to have me here and he made that very clear. Publicly. We had three wonderful nights in the hotel with warm showers and a wealth of restaurants nearby. We found Indian Food and Pizza Hut. It was a cultural oasis. The few of us who needed to stay a third night had a grand time having a girls’ night. We did facials while some of us got a massage and we watched a chick flick whilst doing our nails. It certainly wasn’t an accurate depiction of what life would be like at site but it was a lovely way to celebrate our last night in a city.

Alan, the only man to be invited to girls' night.

Alan, the only man to be invited to girls’ night.

Alan (the only male in girls’ night) and I are neighbors. I mean, for the Peace Corps, you can’t get much closer than he and I are. It’s apparently about 30 minutes to an hour by bike. Because of this fun little fact we were able to hitch a ride together to site as his Vice Principle and my Counterpart had ridden together. So, we buckled up (figuratively, not literally, as there were no seat belts in the back seat) and settled in for our 6 (ish?) hour ride to site.

It was really quite beautiful. We passed countless rice patties littered with farmers and palm trees. Alan dubbed one particularly green expanse The Shire of Indonesia. As we were passing through the windy roads of Gunung Gelap (Dark Mountain) we drove into clouds and I thought I was home again. With the exception of a few odd trees I could have been on Hwy 17 going to Santa Cruz.

I swear, we drove into a cloud.

I swear, we drove into a cloud.

We arrived at my house first. I was reminded of a time that seems both years ago and yesterday. I thought about when I was delivered to my family in Batu. I couldn’t speak a word of real Indonesian, I was nearly quivering like a leaf, there were tons of people there to receive me. I wasn’t quaking this time and I can speak quite a bit of Indonesian now. My Ibu was out when I arrived with no one in the house but her family that had been visiting from Bandung. It was a peculiar way to arrive, but no matter. I found my room, explored the house, and settled in to unpack. There are some major stores nearby as well as a little collection of local shops. My house is very quiet and there’s a well in the back that looks like a small child covered in black hair may crawl out at any moment. I am making a ton of friends with local children and teachers. My school seems really fantastic if somewhat huge. My desa is darling and the beach is beautiful and close. When I buy a bike I should be able to get there fairly quickly.

The boys and I enjoying the beach at sunset.

The boys and I enjoying the beach at sunset.

It’s amazing how much you really get used to given enough time and resilience. When I first came to Indonesia I was constantly worried about the heat and the squatty potty and the mandis. Now it’s just the heat; the other two are a normal daily occurrence. There is always a measure of resolve you don’t know you have until you’re in the middle of using it, some measure of resilience you didn’t know you had until you refuse to stumble. There are, of course, new challenges in a new village. New sources of excitement, new people, new family, new language, new life. I told my mother something once that she recently quoted back to me (god, I hate having myself quoted at myself): It takes you 6 months to stop feeling uncomfortable in a new place and a year to be comfortable. Alright, so maybe she didn’t remember the exact quote but I’ll give her props for trying. Trust me on that, though. I’ve moved a lot. In a month I will know people and feel a little more secure. Two, and I’ll have a friend or two. Six, I’ll feel like I’ve been here forever. At one year I’ll be able to shake things up. It’s a process; it’s slow and it can be tedious, but it’s necessary. It’s why I’m here for two years and not on some 6 month program. I want to really help. Lasting, effective, sustainable change. So buckle down, saddle up, batten down the hatches, and any other silly clichés you can think of, because we’re in for quite a ride.

Here she goes again.

I swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer in under 10 days. I leave for my permanent site in about as many. I leave my soft, sweet little bubble of friends and rambunctious bule (white folks).

All the folks at Coban Rondo

All the folks at Coban Rondo

Preparing to come to the Peace Corps is vaguely akin to a sick joke, full of dramatic irony. Everyone watching from the other side knows that no matter how much you try, you’ll never prepare enough or in the right way. You’ll never be able to pack the right things or spend enough time with the right people or say goodbye in the right way. You’ll never be prepared for a new climate and new people and a new language. You’ll try because, well, what other choice do you really have. You have to try. Try I did. I prepared myself for the heat as best I knew how. I packed what I thought would be appropriate. I spent as much time as I could with the people I love. I said goodbye in the only way I knew how. I mentally and emotionally amped up my steely resolve to be completely alone for a long time. Maybe not two years, but at least until I learned the language and made friends in my excessively slow fashion. And then PST happened.

Let’s all just take a moment to chuckle at me about this one. I had prepared myself to be alone for an undetermined amount of time and then I was thrown into the mix with 49 other like-minded, insane individuals. You know that person in your group of friends, that one person who’s a little off in some way? Maybe a little kooky or idealistic. Maybe they are brilliant in a way you don’t expect or awkward in a way that’s endearing. It’s just one person you can’t quite place in one box and you love them all the more for it. Imagine being that kind of person your whole life; now imagine being thrown into a room full of 49 other people just like that. It’s freaking magical.

Eat the cracker with no hands!!

Eat the cracker with no hands!!

Next week we say goodbye. Again. We try to get ready for the unknown again. There’s not even anyone on the other side to giggle at our futile efforts. Our sites are all individual and new. Those 20 of us going to West Java are in for a whole new level of what-the-hell. There are only three Peace Corps Volunteers that have been there before us, all of whom moved there after living in East Java for two years. So, we prepare again. We put all of our belongings back into bags and firm up for a teary goodbye and get on a train.

Until then we are spending as much time together as possible. My host family is in a perpetual state of dismay and concern over my whereabouts. Both because I come home at ungodly hours (7pm and 8pm!) and because I can’t seem to stop falling. I blame the rain, mainly, but we all know it’s also just a trait I possess. We have been back to Coban Rondo for a fun picnic with the entire trainee population which was promptly rained out after playing traditional Indonesian Independence Day games. We head to McDonald’s and Pizza Hut while we still can, we grab a beer on the roof when we’re feeling overwhelmed and have a dance party. I’ve already booked my plane ticket to Bali for late September when we are allowed travel. I’ll be vacationing with a large group of fellow volunteers and we plan to recline on beautiful sandy white beaches with crystal clear water and adorable bungalows. I can get through absolutely anything with that picture in my mind.

What we’ve all been waiting for…

Let me first tease you all by saying: I KNOW WHERE MY PERMANENT SITE WILL BE!

Our lovely class on our final day!

Our lovely class on our final day!

And now I will treat you as I was treated and force you to wait until I’m done filling you in on the previous goings-ons to tell you where that place is.

Last week was fairly uneventful, thus the lack of blog. Although, I have to say, reconstructing the week in my brain took more effort than it should have. Last Friday we had our last language class (unless we failed our test). It was bittersweet to say goodbye to our super sweet language guru, Didit. They gave us the rest of the day to study for our LPI (Language Proficiency …Interesting? Intermediate? Inmate? Itchy? I have no idea.) test on Saturday. We, of course, used it to it’s full extend… to go see a movie in Malang. Hey, the way I look at it, if I didn’t know the language by Friday I certainly wasn’t going to learn it overnight. The time was better spent relaxing. So, in true klassy American style, we snuck in beer to Fast & Furious 6. The beer was warm and the movie was bad and I loved every minute of it all. We topped off our study session with the very epitome of American gluttony and ate at McDonald’s. Let me make it very clear that I would never frequent such an establishment in America. News flash: This is NOT America. So I enjoyed every bite of my American chicken sandwich and fries. We got lost on the way home, which seems pretty normal at this point, and managed to walk through the door at a whopping 9p. 9p in Indonesian standards may as well be the middle of the night. You have to understand, people get up here at 4/430a every day. (Thank you call to prayer.)

I went back to visit my BFF with Norin and Agis.

I went back to visit my BFF with Norin and Agis.

Saturday I suffered through the stupid LPI as gracefully as I knew how, which is to say, not very. I can speak the darn language well enough if you speak to me like a normal human. If you mumble at a pace that rivals the speed of sound, I will rip out your jugular and feed it to your mumbling remains. Ok, maybe that’s a little visceral, but now you understand my frustration. Hopefully I was able to show enough proficiency to avoid remedial classes. If not you’ll get a substantial rant at a later date.

Sunday was my hari libur (free day). I invited some folks over for Nasi Pecel at my house. Nasi Pecel is this delicious Eastern Java meal of rice (of course) covered in veggies and topped with a spicy peanut sauce. Ah-mazing. My Ibu made that and Mie Goreng (fried noodles that are roughly akin to chow mein) for the non-pecel lovers. After that deliciousness we had to get our fill of cute, so we walked over to the odd little stables near my house. Ah-dorable. I was able to feed my small horse friend and Courtney fed a baby deer. That’s right, we died a little on the inside from the amount of adorable.

Courtney feeding a baby deer. WHAT?!?!

Courtney feeding a baby deer. WHAT?!?!

Monday through Thursday was our site visit. All the new trainees get to visit current volunteers at their sites. It’s a way for us to learn how to travel on our own, ask questions of a current volunteer, and see how they live and work. There were six of us girls headed to the same general location, so we were able to travel together for a ways. 3 Angkots and 2 busses later, Katherine and I arrived in Melanie’s village. Her village is a relatively large one about 6 hours east of Malang. It was a beautiful ride, if somewhat longer than I would’ve liked.

We arrived and took a minute to warm up to one another over some delicious food from a local eatery. It quickly evolved into a fast friendship and an epic media share. I now have about 30 more movies (THANK GOODNESS!!) and, that’s right, every single new Doctor Who episode for this season. I managed to watch them all in two days. We got to visit Melanie’s school and help to play some review games. It was really a lovely time filled with fun slumber parties, girl talk, and relaxation.

I wasn’t until after I got back to my site that I realized how much I had missed it. It is amazing how quickly you learn to cling to the things that become familiar in a situation of such consistent unfamiliarity. I was so happy to see my bright green room and my familiar Mandi (even if the water here is FREEZING) and the people I have grown to appreciate.

It was the perfect build up to… dun dun DUN! Site announcements!!!!

So, we spent the day in various training sessions, none of which we paid any attention to. Finally they let us out for lunch, if only because we were like a pack of ravenous wolves waiting for the gimpy buffalo to fall from the pack. We consistently accosted those in charge during lunch to make sure we didn’t have to wait a moment longer than necessary. Finally, at 2:15p, Sultan led us to a vast chalk drawing of the island of Java. We sat impatiently and our regional managers began to read our names aloud. One by one we collected our placements. Each name called built the suspense a little more. Each name not my own made my stomach turn and my face contort. Finally, Sugi called me! It was everything I could do not to run up and snatch the paper from his outstretched hand.

This would be approximately where I'm living. Can't show you more deets, something about security. But I'm close to the beach!!!

This would be approximately where I’m living. Can’t show you more deets, something about security. But I’m close to the beach!!!

I’m not sure how much I can reveal in such a public forum so all I will say here is that I will be located on the island of Java (as we mostly are at this time) on the western side of the island in a region called Gerut. I should have a mailing address in a couple weeks for family and friends so feel free to shoot me and email and I’ll let you know how to find me. I will be 7 hours away from the closest main city (Bandung) and I am about 1.5 km away from the beach. The. Beach. I’m probably about 30 minutes away from the closest volunteer (which is basically in each other’s laps!), Alan. We are also close to a series of about 3 other volunteers ranging from 1.5 hours away to 4 hours away by car. That would probably work out to much longer by Indonesian bus.

I’m really happy with my placement. I will be on a beach surrounded by a community that seems to be really excited about my coming. I’ll be teaching at an SMA, which is a High School, and I’ll be teaching 10th and 11th graders. I will be learning Bahasa Sunda for a week which will grossly under-prepare me for the language challenges I’ll face but I hear they speak mostly Bahasa Indonesia over there anyway. I’ve grown fairly good at that language. I’m really just so happy the anticipation is over! Wish me luck, folks.

Epic Nomad

Epic Nomad

I really want to be that lady when I grow up.

My mom has been hounding me to update the blog. It didn’t really seem like there was anything to update anyone about. I’m still moving all over, being an epic nomad.

Then I started getting a million people asking me the same questions. I still get “Are you nervous? Are you excited?” a lot. Yes. Both. Nervicited is what the other Peace Corps Volunteers and I have dubbed the sensation. Now I’m getting a lot of inquiry into what the hell is going on. People swear they’ve said good-bye to my at least five times and keep seeing me. Well, you have. Get over it?

I had my going away party a month before my actual departure because, for all intents and purposes, I was out of SF and not really coming back. Then I went to North Carolina to visit my dad and brothers for a minute. Now I’m back in Santa Cruz until I leave for good…sort of.

You see, we depart from sunny San Francisco (that was a joke, guys. Laugh.) on Sunday, April 7 at 12:50pm. Every Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who is coming to Indonesia is meeting up in San Francisco before we peace out; even the Peace Corps spoils me. On Saturday, April 6 we then have a full day of registration, introduction, and general indoctrination. The Peace Corps is setting us up in the Radisson in the Fisherman’s Wharf for the night following registration. I can only imagine the other PCVs and I will need some quality bonding time after a full day of being told what heavy responsibilities and immense challenges lie ahead. I have, therefore, recruited some locals to show us where the best watering holes are in the area. Some PCVs will be arriving starting April 5 so I’m going to head up to my City in the sky on the 4th or 5th in order to be a one man welcoming party. That and to have a final City hurrah (…so, eat Indian food).

For all the visual learners

For all the visual learners

On April 7 we leave San Francisco to head to Narita, Japan (which will take roughly 12 hours of excruciating plane ride that might kill me). We have a two and a half hour layover in Narita with which we can do very little. From there we head to Singapore (a mere 7 hours) where we will have about 6 hours of layover in which we can romp around, kiss the ground, shower, nap, see the butterfly garden, or even get a foot massage in this supposedly massive airport. I might be more excited for Singapore than Indonesia, guys. After they rip us away from the airport we hop over to Surabaya, Indonesia. After the days of travel, the last 2 and a half hour flight might push me over the top and you’ll find me floating somewhere in the Java Sea after I dive from the plane in sheer exasperation. If I make it to Indonesia they’ll put us up in a hotel for about 5 days where we have introductions and begin training and get settled. They will then promptly move us to Malang where we will commence Pre-Service Training (PST). (If you look above, you’ll note I’ve added a new page called “Wait, where?” It has the mailing address for me during PST.) I will move in with a host family once in Malang and chances are good I will have very limited access to the interwebs. You’ve all been warned. I’ll be there until the end of May/beginning of June. If all goes according to plan, once I leave Malang they will send me to god-knows-where village to begin my actual service in my own village all by my lonesome.

So, apparently this is really happening. The plane tickets are purchased, the plans are set, my homework is due. I do believe I may actually be moving to Indonesia, my fair friends. This whole farewell process has been immensely interesting. I can’t say I expected it to be so hard. I don’t generally like people, so I didn’t expect there to be so freaking many that I will miss.

I also feel woefully unprepared. They keep telling me that there is no way to really be ready, but for those of you who know me well, unpreparedness just doesn’t jive. I keep feeling like I need to be doing a million things, that I’ve forgotten things or fallen down on the job or had a crucial plan malfunction. But it’s not so. There is no plan malfunction because the plan is constantly changing. Things are going to unfold as they will and I’m going to have to learn to be ok with not being in control at some point. It may as well be now. (All you stage managers out there, please cringe with me now in a collective “oh god, it’s my worst nightmare” moment. Thanks.) So it won’t be enough to simply become comfortable with being uncomfortable but also coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer in full control. I can’t plan every minute of every day for the next 2 years. I can’t tell you where exactly I’ll be in 4 months. It’s not even my decision. Let that thought rattle around your noggin for a minute and tell me you wouldn’t be losing your mind too.